Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

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Watching the Watchmen

Posted by Oli on Monday 16th March, 2009

I’ve been so busy of late that I’ve fallen way behind on my cinema viewing. Most disappointingly of all, I wasn’t able to get to all the Oscar nominees, which is something I try to do every year. I was really bothered about not checking out Doubt or The Reader in particular, but I also really wanted to see both Milk and Revolutionary Road. But time waits for no man and neither do cinema releases, which are getting shorter and shorter windows at the multiplex now.

Thanks to all of this I decided that I’d spend my first clear-diary-day yesterday at the flicks and catch Watchmen – the kind of film that is likely to make so much more impact on the big screen than when you bring it home on DVD.

Interestingly, I wasn’t expecting to like this very much, which probably served it very well. I have a strong tendency to hype things up in my mind and end up ultimately disappointed by them, so going into a film with low expectations often then works in my favour.

I was suitably impressed – it’s a really good film. The visuals, as you’d expect from 300-director Zack Snyder, are impressive, particularly the open two sequences. But what I liked most about it was how happy it was to let both the people and the story be ambiguous. There’s no clear-cut, black and white definitions in Watchmen at all.

I’ve not read the Alan Moore graphic novel this is based on, but knowing his work I suspect that all of the ambiguity is from him, something Snyder’s clearly worked hard to keep in. I can only imagine the pressure that came from the studio to “lighten it up” and make a few of the characters more likeable. But it’s tribute to Snyder that he stuck to his guns and has turned out a kind of anti-Hollywood blockbuster – it’s big and loud and brash, but it also has a very “indie” sensibility, putting the characters at the forefront and enjoying it’s inherent contrasts.

It’s definitely worth seeing, if for no other reason than it’s a rare comic book movie that ditches the idea of playing to the “tween” market and instead pitch itself exactly where the graphic novel that’s gone before it did. Like the uncompromising Sin City, this features gruesome, hard-core violence, full-frontal (albeit CGI) male nudity and soft-core sex scenes between two main characters. Batman and Robin this is not. Better than that, it is.


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